A group backing the left flank of Britain’s Labour Party and headed by a key supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has defended a statement by a Labour official accusing British Jewish leaders and rabbis of being “Trump fanatics” who were fabricating “duff information” about anti-Semitism in the party.
John McDonnell, a socialist Labour MP who serves as the party’s shadow chancellor of the exchequer — its finance minister in waiting — is president of the Labour Representation Committee, which published the charges on Friday.
The comments come amid long-running accusations against Corbyn and the Labour Party under his leadership of tolerating anti-Jewish sentiments, often under the guise of or linked to anti-Israel political views.
In a statement on its website, the LRC backed a much-criticized statement by Peter Willsman, a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee, that blamed “Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all” for the anti-Semitism scandal in the party.
Willsman was recorded at a panel on anti-Semitism saying, “Some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump. They are Trump fanatics and all the rest of it…. So I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all.”
Willsman went on to insist that “we should ask the 70 rabbis [who signed a letter against Labour anti-Semitism], ‘Where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this party?'”
After the comments became public in a Jewish Chronicle expose, Momentum, the organization backing Corbyn within the party, removed Willsman from its slate of candidates for the National Executive Committee.
The LRC, which was founded in 2004 as a platform for Labour’s left flank, defended the accusation that Jewish “Trump fanatics” and rabbis were making up the anti-Semitism crisis. “This is a factually true statement from Peter [Willsman],” it said.
The statement targeted former Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush as an example of a Jewish leader who “welcomed Trump’s election, … [and] went on to praise Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a hugely provocative and controversial decision.”
As the British daily The Telegraph noted in a Sunday report, the LRC statement did not mention that Arkush also criticized Trump’s “divisive campaign” at the time and called for America to remain “a beacon of progress, tolerance and free thinking.”
The LRC statement went on: “Clearly we are confronted with a systematic campaign afoot to smear Corbyn and the entire Labour movement with allegations of antisemitism. It is shameful that some Labour MPs are piling in and adding to the pressure. It is all the more shameful when Labour is ahead in the opinion polls and the Tory government is in apparently terminal crisis.”
Arkush, in a response to the LRC charges cited by The Telegraph, said, “It would be more accurate to call me a Trump critic. Before you accuse anyone of making up allegations of anti-Semitism, you might ask the Labour MPs who have been racially abused in their constituency parties and trolled with abhorrent threats… from Corbyn supporters.”
The LRC conceded in its online statement that “there may be isolated incidences of antisemitism within Labour. Where they exist that must be rooted out.”
But, it added, “we firmly reject the idea that, as the Jewish Chronicle asserted, ‘The stain and shame of antisemitism has coursed through her majesty’s opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.’ Suddenly with Corbyn’s election a huge switch marked antisemitism was switched on inside Labour!”
The LRC statement concluded by urging Labour members to support Willsman’s bid to retain his seat on the party’s National Executive Committee. “We urge all Labour Party members who are currently deciding who to vote for: do not on any account withdraw your support for Peter Willsman. Don’t be cowed. To do so would be to appease Labour’s enemies.”
The LRC is active in efforts to rebuff charges of anti-Semitism, with a July 26 statement on its website from a group called Jewish Voice for Labour headlined “The right-wing Jewish media are plumbing new depths.”
According to The Telegraph, the LRC has also railed against the Labour Friends of Israel, claiming in a 2017 post that the pro-Israel organization, “of which 81 MPs are listed as supporters, was a ‘conduit’ for ‘Israeli spooks … subverting the Labour Party.'”